The vintage scene abroad

It is many years now since the Vintage Sports Car Club started racing vintage and historic racing cars and sports cars, and over the last few years the interest has spread beyond the shores of Great Britain, to European countries, South Africa and America. Rules and regulations were always few, though the VSCC kept a responsible eye on things in this country and quite often, French or German organisers would seek advice from the VSCC, one German organiser even “importing” a member of the VSCC to act as overall adviser and steward. While this sort of racing was only taking place in Great Britain the Federation International Automobile (PIA) took little interest, leaving the responsibility to our own RAC, but with the growth of interest in the racing of old cars throughout Europe and the rest of the world the PTA have felt it is time to take a hand. An International Committee was formed to keep an eye on “old car racing” and fortunately this august body have taken the VSCC activities as a guide line. There is some slight dissension, and rightly so, because on a visit to a vintage meeting at Oulton Park two of the International group were appalled at some of the awful “homemade” specials that the VSCC allow to race as vintage or PVT cars. They were not over impressed by the general standards of originality, feeling that too many of the British competitors were using non-original “gofaster goodies”. However, the basic concepts of vintage and historic racing seemed acceptable internationally so a set of PIA-approved rules and regulations have been published for this type of racing and rallying.

The whole gamut of old cars has been divided into five categories, the dating of which has been taken directly from the rules of our own Veteran Car Club and Vintage Sports Car Club, but the names given to the groups have had to be changed in order that they make sense in Italian, French, German. Dutch, Polish or Czechoslovakian. While we appreciate that an Edwardian car is one of the Edwardian period, and we know that by Edwardian we refer to King Edward VII, you can hardly expect an Italian to appreciate it, or a Spaniard for that matter. Equally we all know that the term PVT means Post-Vintage Thoroughbred, but you can’t expect the Germans to translate that, it’s bad enough translated into French! The PIA committee have agreed upon names that can be understood and pronounced in most languages, like Coca Cola. Following, for ease of understanding, are the International classes and the British classes.

While the VSCC accept only certain cars in category D, a list of desirable makes and models being published by the club, the International rules appear to accept anything built in that period. Similarly the VSCC are pretty choosy as to what they consider to be Historic Racing Cars, whereas the International category appears to be open to any single-seater racing car, sports and sportsracing cars, but specifically excluding mid-engined cars. On the question of what you can do and what you cannot do in the way of modifications, improvements, rebuilding and so on, the International rules follow the existing VSCC rules pretty closely, as do the mechanical rules as they affect scrutineering from the safety in racing aspect. One part of the FIA rules leaves the mind boggling slightly, and that is the classification of Authentic in which the only deviations allowed are a change of wheels and tyres, provided the new ones are in keeping with the general aesthetic outline of the car, and the use of modern sparking plugs, lamp bulbs, and batteries. Otherwise the car must be “completely original in all respects as manufactured”.

If parts of the engine or body have been replaced with parts identical to the original then the car is no longer Authentic and goes into a category headed Restored. Repainting the bodywork or re-upnolstering the interior may deem a car to be Restored and not Authentic. On the face of it the only cars that will qualify as Authentic by International rules will be tatty old clapped-out heaps, needing a repaint and a rebore. Any cars not conforming to these two categories will be classified as Modified, which means that 99% of the cars in the Veteran Car Club and the Vintage Sports Car Club will be Modified, even if they appear to be original, for in recent years the standard of presentation of our cars has improved enormously, with engines being rebuilt, interiors refurbished and cars rebuilt and repainted from the chassis side-members upwards.

The International paragraph I do like is the final one, on this subject of classification: it reads “Any modified car which in the opinion of the Federation International Vehicles Ancien technical committee contravenes the spirit of these Regulations may be excluded”. I could list 25 cars in VSCC competitions that contravene the spirit and should be excluded, but that is a domestic problem.

The most important thing that this identification of “old car racing” by the FIA means, is that enthusiasts from other countries can now take part in our events, provided the organising club makes the right application and there are more and more opportunities for our people to take their cars to other countries to race. Fast becoming a classic meeting is the one held on the pits/grandstand loop at the Nurburgring due this year on August 15th. Other events at Paul Ricard circuit and the little Autodrome at St. Pol and at Dijon-Prenois are becoming popular, while an event at Watkins Glen in conjunction with the United States GP is becoming a regular feature. Then there is the first-class event at Phoenix Park in Ireland, and classes for “old cars” at hill-climbs in France and Belgium, so that a very busy International season is there for anyone with the time and money and a suitable old racing car, while Rallies and Assemblies for Veteran and Vintage cars have long been popular all over Europe. This year the FIVA International Rally is taking place in the North of England from May 26th to May 31st, organised by the VCC and the VSCC but whether any AUTHENTIC cars enter remains to be seen; there will certainly be plenty of RESTORED cars and a glut of MODIFIED cars.—D.S.J.